The story of Sarajevo’s Romeo and Juliet, 1993

Some good things come out of war, and the image of this young couple embracing lifeless bodies for days on the road strikes a chord in even the toughest observers of all sides of the conflict. Killed by sniper bullets, the bodies of childhood sweethearts lay in their final embrace for seven days.

By the time they were eventually removed from Sarajevo's Vrbanja Bridge – still embroiled in them – they had become symbols of enduring love caught in a senseless war. This is the story of Romeo and Juliet of Bosnia.

The Siege of Sarajevo (1992–1996), part of the Wars of Yugoslavia, was responsible for destroying the lives, families and futures of many residents. Nothing is more tragic than the story of childhood sweethearts Bosco Brikic and his girlfriend of nine years, Admira Ismic.

What's different about this love story is that she was a Bosnian Serb or Orthodox Christian, and she was a Bosniak Muslim. There was an unexpected love between two 25-year-olds in the midst of an ethnic conflict.

As the siege got progressively worse, those who could have survived did so. Bosco's father died, and the rest of his family lived in Serbia. He could have survived alone. He did not do so and decided to stay with Admira in Sarajevo until life became too difficult. After a year under siege, the couple decide to flee to Bosco's family.

Bosnian Serbs had privileges. Muslims did not. He collected as much money as possible and paid for his safe passage from Sarajevo through the Serb-held neighborhood Grbavika to safety.

They would cross the Miljaca River via the Vrbanja Bridge, or Sauda and Olga Bridge, named after two anti-war protesters who had been the first victims of the war on April 5, 1992. Everyone agreed that no one would shoot while walking. Bridge at 5:00 pm on 19 May 1993.

On their fateful day, Bosco and Admira were optimistic. According to Dino Kapin, who was then the commander of a Croatian unit affiliated with the Bosnian Army forces, around 17:00, a man and a woman were seen approaching the bridge.

As they were at the bottom of the bridge, a gunshot was heard, and according to all parties involved in their path, the bullet hit Bosco Brikic and killed him immediately.

Another gunshot was heard and the woman cried, fell wounded, but was not killed. She crawled to her lover, hugged him, hugged him and died. It was observed that she survived for at least 15 minutes after the shoot.

American photojournalist Mark H. Milstein, who created the haunting image of Admira and Bosco, recalled in an interview that "the morning of May 19, 1993 was quite a bustle" as far as the making of the photographs were concerned: After lunch, I contacted the Japanese independent TV cameraman and Washington Times reporter. Together, we traveled the city looking for something different. Wherever we went in Sarajevo, we ended up in despair. However, it took one day Before calling, we decided to check the front line around Vrbanja Bridge.

A short battle ensued, with Bosnian forces firing on a group of Serb soldiers near the ruins of the Union Invest Building. Suddenly, a Serb tank appeared 200 meters in front of us and fired a shot at us.

We drove to the next apartment house and hid ourselves with a group of Bosnian soldiers. One of the soldiers yelled at me for looking out the window, pointing to a young girl and boy on the far side of the bridge. I grabbed my camera, but it was too late. The boy and the girl were shot. Bosnian Admira Ismi and Bosnian Serb Boško Brkić, both 25."

To this day, it is not known for certain who fired the shots. The bodies of Admira and Boško lay on the bridge for several days because no one dared to enter Sniper Alley, not a man's land, and did not dare to retrieve them.

Brikic's mother Radmila called the pair "a symbol of peace", but dismissed comparisons to Shakespeare's masterpiece. Their love was never forbidden and both the families always respected each other. Admira's parents were just as welcoming as Bosco.

While her grandmother doubted that a mixed relationship might be afoot, the general reaction of acceptance of both families encompasses a broader and historical vision of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

For most of its history, it had been a crossroads of nations, with Sarajevo serving as a cosmopolitan melting pot where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Catholics and Orthodox peoples lived together for 500 years.

Many people wrote about him, songs, articles, stories… One of the most famous articles was by Kurt Schork, which was published by Reuters in May 1993 and traveled around the world.

Sarajevo's group Zabranzeno Pusenje had composed a song a few years back under the name Bosco i Admira, and Bill Madden also under the name Bosco and Admira. For many in modern Bosnia, the story of Ismic and Briik suggests that only time will tell whether love or war will win in the long run.

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